Hyde Park Indictment Concerns Commissioners - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Hyde Park Indictment Concerns Commissioners

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Augusta, GA -

They claimed a house on Walnut Street in Hyde Park was home, but it wasn't the case.

 "All of a sudden we get a big red flag over here in the area; if part of the apple has a rotten spot we better look at the whole apple, "says Commissioner Grady Smith.  

A Richmond County Grand Jury looked over this clam and indicted Belinda Winfrey and Leomie Fielding for attempted theft by deception.

According to city documents, Winfrey claimed to be renting the house in Hyde Park and was to be relocated to another address.

With the city officials signing off on more than $22,000 in relocation expenses.

"We discovered these people, we got lucky. We're tightening down the screws as much as much as we can to make sure, and it's obvious that we are indicting these people. We take this seriously," says City Administrator Fred Russell.

But, some Commissioners feel the city needs to get more serious when it comes to the relocating process in Hyde Park.

"As a government, we should be concerned that right out of the chute we have people trying fraudulently getting money from us," says Commissioner Donnie Smith.

Two have been indicted for allegedly trying to get money from the city, but will the city be as lucky next time in catching someone bent on trying to defraud?

Russell says it could happen again, so is the city rushing into relocations if city leaders are not confident all safeguards are in place?

"Well, all the safeguards are never ever going to be in place...the community participation, us looking as closely at it as whatever, if you wait for it to be perfect, it will never happen," says Russell.

Last year, the Commission voted to allow Augusta Housing Authority director Chester Wheeler to approve all relocations without Commission involvement.

"I think if we're going to be responsible for $16 million worth of funds allocated to go back out there and buy those homes out, then there should be direct supervision from the Commission," says Commissioner Donnie Smith.

Hyde Park relocations are just beginning the plan is to move out more than 100 families in phases, but some city leaders feel they should stop work on Hyde Park until better oversight is in place.

"I would say that if you already got this going on, on the front end this soon, yes I'd stop it," says Commissioner Grady Smith.

City Administrator Fred Russell does not support having the Commission sign off and approve each and every relocation in Hyde Park.

Commission committees meet on Monday and Commissioner Donnie Smith says he wants to discuss what happened in Hyde Park and what safe guards are in place to prevent it from happening again.

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